Lands of Lost Borders

A nonfiction book by Kate Harris.

Kate Harris

As a teenager, Kate Harris realized that the career she most craved — that of a generalist explorer, equal parts swashbuckler and metaphysician, with a flair for basic science and endless slogging — had gone extinct. From what she could tell of the world from small-town Ontario, the likes of Marco Polo and Magellan had mapped the whole earth. So she looked beyond this planet, vowing to become a scientist and go to Mars.

Well along this path, Harris set off by bicycle down a short section of the fabled Silk Road with her childhood friend Mel Yule. This trip was just a simulacrum of exploration, she thought, not the thing itself — a little adventure to pass the time until she could launch for outer space. But somewhere in between sneaking illegally across Tibet, studying the history of science and exploration at Oxford and staring down a microscope for a doctorate at MIT, she realized that an explorer, in any day and age, is by definition the kind of person who refuses to live between the lines. Forget charting maps, naming peaks, leaving footprints on another planet: What she yearned for was the feeling of soaring completely out of bounds. And where she'd felt that most intensely was on a bicycle, on a bygone trading route. So Harris quit the laboratory and hit the Silk Road again with Yule, this time determined to bike it from beginning to end. (From Knopf Canada)